Beethoven’s Seventh and the Superbowl

We had an enjoyable night at the symphony last weekend. Our fine conductor, Mark Russell Smith, has done an outstanding job with our Quad City Symphony over the years and their hard work has certainly paid off. An Edvard Grieg all-strings suite (the Holberg) was a charming Baroque-like dance and featured violist Livia Sohn did a splendid job with Samuel Barber’s energetic Concerto, Op. 14.

Maestro Smith introduced the second half of the program by reminding us that it was Super Bowl Sunday and that we should, at the end of the concert, ponder the question, “Which takes more energy: The Super Bowl halftime show or Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony?” Chuckling, he suggested, “You know the answer to that!”

Besides the fact that neither this year’s Super Bowl game nor its halftime show lived up to expectations, I think Mark’s observation is correct. I have loved the driving rhythmic motives of Beethoven’s Seventh since college days and I can honestly say I have rarely heard it better performed than last Saturday night. Four standing O’s suggest the audience felt the same.

During the intermission, Susanne engaged a couple of young women sitting near us, a new mother on a Mom’s night out with her younger college friend. They had played stringed instruments in school and were thoroughly enjoying themselves. But when Susanne asked them how many of their friends liked classical music, one of them looked around at the milling audience and said, “It is sort of like being in a nursing home, isn’t it?”

I thought, “Yeah, and like being in my church most Sundays!” I wonder if there is a connection between the lack of interest of so many younger people in church and their absence in church? Since my church at least seems to major in pretty traditional music and hymnody, the connection seems likely. Yet, we hear from so many of them that just featuring “contemporary” music and dumbing down the liturgy is not what they are interested in. They want us to be authentic…and to walk our talk out there in the real world.

Maybe if we really did those things, younger folks might hang in there with us long enough to experience the soul lifting involvement with a fine organ, choir and the full congregational participation that liturgical worship, at its best, can provide.

There’s as much energy in that as in even a good Super Bowl halftime show!

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